DESPITE Vietnam’s move to install its first female president recently, activists said the appointment would do little to improve women’s rights.
The appointment of Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh was named acting president on Sunday following the death of Tran Dai Quang, a former chief of internal security who took the post in 2016.
“I think while Ngoc Thinh’s appointment is symbolically important, its wider significance is limited to some women who are Communist Party members,” said activist and dissident Do Nguyen Mai Khoi, as quoted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“We should however remember that, as an unelected leader who is not accountable to the public, this appointment is not likely to improve conditions for most women in Vietnam.”
In a survey last year conducted by the Genveva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union last year, Vietnam ranked 61 out 193 countries for women’s participation in parliament. The country was also ranked 166 for women in ministerial positions.
Before taking the presidency, Vietnam’s National Assembly elected Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh as vice president in 2016.
According to state media reports, she the newly-minted president born in 1959 and holds a bachelor of law and a masters degree in party building.
Andrea Giorgetta, Asia director for the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights, said: “The appointment of a woman as Vietnam’s president may be historic, but it has more to do with internal party politics than gender.”
She added: “The reality is that the number of women in decision-making positions at all political levels in Vietnam remains low and reflects firmly-rooted gender stereotypes about the role women in the country’s society.”
The Southeast Asian country has no paramount ruler, but its four “pillars” form its official leadership – the president, prime minister, the chief of its Communist Party and the national assembly chair.
The presidential seat has powerful policy-making powers but is largely considered to play a ceremonial role in the country.